The news that the Muslim Ladies College in Perth has been closed down by the government and its acting director charged with fraud is not as shocking as it should be to me.
It’s because there are many opportunities for school principals to defraud the government. If a school wants funding from the government it has to present numbers of pupils in attendance at the beginning of the school year. More pupils leads to more funding.
Sounds logical, but as I know from personal experience in my early days of teaching at a N.S.W. state school, the system can be open to abuse. There is nothing to stop a principal from inviting the sisters and friends of pupils who will attend that school from being present on that first day of the year. It is even easier if the pupils have Asian names which can be confusing to the average Anglo.
So what happens is that there are many more names on the school roll in the first week, say. The teachers never see those pupils again, but are told to mark them as absent for the entire term. This will ensure that the school will receive much more government funding than it’s legally and morally entitled to.
The principal may try to excuse this lie by saying that she (or he) is doing it for the sake of the pupils, but in reality that funding is being misappropriated from other educational establishments. After all, there is only so much funding that can be distributed.
The Muslim Ladies College in Perth might have lost 40 of its 90 pupils simply because it was poor at teaching. Apparently, too much school time was devoted to religious instruction and not enough on literacy and numeracy. Teachers were unregistered and had limited authority to teach, according to Mark McGowan. the State Education Minister.
Worse still, the Acting Director of the Muslim Ladies College has been arrested for defrauding the government and sending money to Pakistan. So now all those students will have to find other schools to attend next year.
This is a terrible indictment, but in my opinion, there are many schools that produce graduates who can’t read and write. And I suspect that there are many schools which concentrate on some aspect, such as religion perhaps, or sport, at the expense of true academic learning.
Of course, Mr Sayed from the Muslim Ladies College has been caught sending illegally obtained money to Pakistan and that’s a departure from the usual manipulation of the system with which I am familiar.
The point that I wish to make, however, is that school funding is open to abuse by the process that I have described. The solution for this is to have regular enrollments scrutiny by the Department of Education and if current attendance has declined then an explanation must be sought. If the attendance was exaggerated by phony names or pupils who only attended on the first day of term, then the school should have its funding reduced.
Furthermore, if it can be proven that the principal ordered this fraud then she (or he) should have to recompense the funds to the government.